Flutter tounging is a rarely called for in written music but it sounds really amazing when it is. In this guide I will you just that teach you just that — how to flutter tongue on the trumpet.
One outright benefit of flutter tounging on trumpet to you, especially if you are a beginners who varies airspeed as they go higher and lower on range, is that it trains you how to keep airspeed very steady and constant.
Another added benefit of flutter tonguing is that it will aid you in producing the correct tongue placement for single articulation.
This is why flutter tonguing is one of the best exercises to add to your daily practice sessions.
Let’s dive into the technique.
How to flutter tongue on the trumpet
Flutter tongue is produced by blowing air and letting our tongue flap in the breeze. It is exactly the same technique as what is referred to as rolling your R’s or trilling your R’s.
Flutter tonguing is a skill that can be learned, anyone can do it you just need to know, physically, how to do it.
By far, the biggest mistake people make with flutter tonguing is to think that it is done by an active movement of the tongue such as when you repeatedly voice the syllable “ra ra ra…”.
You are not actually moving your tongue up (and down) against the roof of your mouth. Thats the wrong approach.
It is more like a flag flapping in the wind.
Your tongue should stay completely loose. You don’t need to put any tension whatsoever, especially, at the tip of the tongue.
It needs to be completely relaxed for it to flutter.
The sound is made by a stream of airflow flipping over the tip of the tongue as it is lifted up against the roof of the mouth.
Another common mistake is the positioning of the tongue. If you try and trill an American R, the tip of the tongue is too far back — you simply cannot trill it.
And one of the problems there, as well, is that our T is further back in the mouth that it should be when you voice the word “trill”.
Instead, your “trill” should be more of a dental sound, almost as if to say “chrill”.
Once the T is further forward in the mouth, the tongue then needs to go up against the ridge behind the teeth.
Here are the two steps you can use to work on your flutter tongue.
Step #1 — Establish a steady airflow
The first thing is to establish a stream of air than you can then play with, with your tongue, and figure out what works to get the flutter.
As trumpeters, establishing a proper diaghram airflow should be second nature. We should put a little more air into our R’s than we normally do.
Step #2 — Stick your completely relaxed tongue up on the ridge behind your front teeth
The next step is to stick the tip of your completely relaxed tongue up onto the ridge behind your front teeth.
Push the tip of your tongue up and forward and then completely relax it so that the air can go over it.
Again, do not curl your tongue back as you would with the American R.
Practice making the airstream and then flick the tongue up into it. It is very important to make sure that the tongue is completely relaxed.
If you’re still getting stuck, you probably have too much tension in your tongue. You can’t try too hard. That’s the biggest mistake — it doesn’t work.
With time you will learn to separate and control the airflow from the fluttering of the tongue. This is exactly how wind instruments work.
Make sure you don’t have a scoop in your tongue while you stick it up. It needs to be flat.
If you have trouble with it don’t worry, it takes practice but you’ll soon be able to separate the flutter from the airstream and vary the airstream if you keep at it.
I recommend doing step #1 and #2 away from the trumpet several times until you are able to get that flutter tongue going. Once that happens you are ready to try it on the trumpet.
Top 2 benefits you’ll get from flutter tonguing on the trumpet
Benefit #1 — It will help you control your airspeed better
If you tried flutter tounging in the steps above, you will have heard than when you are flutter tounging, there are not gaps anywhere, and the flutter tounging is consistent among various notes.
That is the aim, that is where we want to get to with our normal trumpet playing.
At first you may need to play forte dynamic — literally, a little loud — but once you are able to do that, I encourage you to get softer and softer.
This soft flutter tongue is going to help up control our airspeed so that it remains very steady all the time.
Sometimes with students, especially younger beginners, as they go higher and lower on the range, they vary their airspeed. But if they work on flutter tonguing, that will ensure that their airspeed is very steady and constant.
If the notes are cutting out, or the flutter tounging is cutting out, it means that the airflow isn’t supporing it. You need to make sure there is a steady airstream moving in a forward direction, and at a fast speed.
Alternate between playing notes and flutter tounging those same notes in succession to get the most out of flutter tounging.
Benefit #2 — It will help you with single articulation for tongue placement
Another added benefit of flutter tonguing is that it will aid us in producing the correct tongue placement for single articulation.
Let me explain…
Remember how we said that our tongue is going to strike behind our teeth, at the top of the teeth where the gums meet the teeth?
Because the tip of the tongue goes right behind the top of our teeth, it is impossible to flutter tongue through your teeth.
So if you are a student and you are still tounging through your teeth, you want to introduce flutter tounging to your daily practice.
It may be frustrating for you at first, but I encourage you to stick with it. Over the course of several weeks, your tounging will improve significantly.
You can also add simple single articulation exercises to flutter tounging because where our tongue flutters is the most natural place for the tongue to strike during single tounging.
Flutter tonguing can wear out your chops
It is important to remember that flutter tounging can wear out your chops if you do it too much.
I recommend only doing it about 5 minutes in each practice session, just once a day. You can, however, do much of it, if you do it just on air without the trumpet.